Monday, June 27, 2011

Laughter and Redemption

I enjoyed lunch today with the Prodigal Son.  During our conversation, in between other subjects and some laughter, he gently added, as he has been over the past several months, to my cache of knowledge of his life over the last 15 years.

I refer to him as I do, because I myself have been the recipient of a Fatted Calf.  That story is for another day, but the point is,  I know a little something about redemption.  

In the dictionary the word redeem has several definitions, but most of them begin with the words "to free from...".  Redemption to me is a process.  Freeing one's self from addiction, for example, is a form of redemption.  Freeing one's self from guilt, self hatred, or more generically, from one's past, is a form of redemption.  My personal path of redemption includes my decision to spend as much of my time as possible engaged in laughter.

I have found that the more I laugh, the stronger I get.  I can listen to him refer to some previous questionable activity without being overcome with waves of guilt.  I am filled with joy at his determination, and allow myself not to think about how difficult this must be for him. A woman whom I consider wise once told me that a little denial is okay.  In other words, it's not necessary for me to know all the details to be joyful and proud of the path upon which he is working so hard to stay.

What I love the most about these conversations is the fact of them.  A couple of years ago, Older Son and I had lunch once or twice, and found that we enjoyed each other's company.  So we decided to make it a regular thing.  We've been meeting about once a month since then.  We just chat about whatever, and not surprisingly, I have found that I really like the man that he has become.

Last week, I called my daughter and invited her to breakfast.  It was lovely to share a meal, an hour, simply because we enjoy each other's company.  Talk and laughter.  What could be better?

I like my children.  I like the men and woman they have become.  As we talk, and laugh together,  I am free from concern over whether or not I was a "good mother".  I am filled with joy.  I am redeemed.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Power of Breath

Here's an exercise:  take a breath; watch it go.  Take another breath; watch it go; repeat.  How simple is this?  Do you need a teacher? A book? A building?    I can't answer those questions for you, but if you watch long enough, or often enough you will understand its power.

When I was 21 I learned about the power of breath.  Such a simple thing:  after each exhale, an inhale. Personally, I didn't figure this out all by myself, there was a guru involved.  Yes, there were aspects of eastern philosophy involved.  Yes, in many ways it was a personality driven spiritual path, and oh, by the way,  from age 21 till I was about 24, I lived in a series of communes.

In some ways those few years were the happiest of my life.  Everything I owned fit in the trunk of my little car: some clothes, a guitar, a one-and-a-half-inch thick foam pad I rolled out for a bed, and a pair of Birkenstock sandals.   A nomad, I don't think I lived in one place for more than about three months at a time.  For a few months I stayed, along with about 300 other people, in a large building that had previously been a bottling factory for a major soft drink corporation.  For another little while I was a  "housemother",  cooking a huge vegetarian meal each evening.  I started every afternoon by chopping onions, and by the time I was done with that, the evening's menu would manifest in my brain.  Each morning, after putting out a breakfast spread, and making about 15 sack lunches, I would wake my housemates by walking from bedroom to bedroom playing guitar and  singing "devotional" songs.  But no matter where I laid my head at night, each morning and evening, along with my housemates, my closest friends, I  would sit and breathe for about an hour.

For the next 20 years life occurred.  The 20-ish girl became a mother, a wife.  Her babies became children, then young men. I breathed.

Stuff happened; the marriage became broken.   As a 40-ish woman, I was on my own again...still breathing.

More life happened.  I was learning to love myself again.    After years spent as the only female in an all male household, I surrounded myself with women I admired.   I went back to school and earned my college degree, then a masters degree. All the while, you guessed it, I continued to breathe.

Meanwhile, I met and married the Manly Spouse and his 13-year-old daughter.  Now my lovely daughter is married herself and has two beautiful children.  The handsome Older son has 5 (!), the beautiful Prodigal son has one.  Life has continued to happen.  And I am still in awe of the power that is my breath.  I am still watching, waiting for the gift of the next one.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Lessons in Joy

My mother was a teacher in the art of being joyful.  She  understood the importance of having fun.  She taught me how to make s'mores,  sit-upons, and sourdough bread.  Not just in girl scout camp, either.  

     When I was a young girl, maybe 8 or 9 years old, she threw me a birthday party.  We invited every girl in my class and she taught us all how to make dresses using newspaper and stick pins.

     The summer I was 15 or 16 we found an old buffet in a barn.  We spent a day (at least!) antiquing it... Blue.  It was a fun, funky piece of furniture that sat in the hall outside her kitchen for the rest of her life.  Every time I looked at it I remembered how much fun we had painting it.

     Once, when my mother was in her eighties, we went to lunch together.  She ordered soup, and a glass of white wine.  "Don't you want a sandwich?" I asked.
     "Not today," she answered, " I'm having the chocolate cake for dessert!" 
When we left the restaurant, it was raining.  My mother took off her shoes and splashed, laughing,  through the puddles back to the car.

     In September, 2001, after 5 heart attacks in 6 weeks, there was nothing to do but hospice, and she rode home in an ambulance to die.   When she was wheeled out of the ambulance she said, " That was so much fun, looking out the window backwards!"   She laughed and laughed.  

     My mother taught me that Joy is wherever you find it.  She taught me how to make my own joy.  She reminded me how much fun it is to splash in the puddles in my bare feet, and that it's. Okay to eat dessert first!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Having fun and making it work at work.

In keeping with my stated goal of having fun, I approached my supervisor at my big-box retail job about a schedule that makes more sense.  The job is necessary as it provides pretty good health insurance.  It's also fun, and so qualifies as a reasonable way to spend my working hours.  However, the willy-nilly scheduling of eight-hour shifts, on my feet, with two-day-in-a-row weekends a rarity, was wreaking havoc on my ability to, well, stay sane.

I'm an alumna of the 12 hour work day corporate grind.  It wasn't totally horrible as I really liked the work.  But I was pretty obsessed.  One day my manly spouse looked at me and said, "I want my wife back".  So  I walked, started my painted furniture business, and the gradual process of the aforementioned goal began to blossom in my middle-aged heart.

Health care was an issue.  Money was an issue.  Happily the big-box store provided both.  So we now have health insurance, I have a fun job, *and* a little money coming in once every two weeks.  So why was I still tired after a day off? Why was I getting cranky when the prodigal son wanted to plan a lunch date on what he *thought* was my day off, but wasn't ... Because that changed every week.  

This brings me back, in my happy, fun loving, verbose way, to the very first sentence of this blog post.  I now have a regular weekly schedule. Hooray!  It doesn't take effect for two weeks and I'm already having more fun.  Seems to me there's a lesson here... 

Oh, and I have a lunch date with the prodigal son on Monday. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Vegetables and herbs

June!  This year I decided to try planting eggplant from seed.  I didn't think they "took", so naturally I went off to the nursery for some seedlings... And... You guessed it, I now haveagazillion little eggplant seedlings coming up.  guess I'll be making lots of babaganoush this summer!

I just purchased an herb scissors set.  The manly spouse and I went to a nursery to buy mulch and I got trapped in the gift shop...~sigh~.  I learned that my extremely robust chive patch needs to be thinned.  I also learned that the chive flowers are edible (who knew?!). There seems to be some controversy over whether to cut the flowers or not...  See "The Garden Web":

While the maker of my cool new scissors, Secrets du Potager, indicates in their literature that chives " must not be allowed to flower so as to preserve their flavour." Now that I've thinned and headed all the chives I want to try the flowers in salad.  Again I say, ~sigh~